From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Kasturirangan Committee Report
Mains level : Ecological significance of western ghats
Recently, the Karnataka CM has informed the Centre that the state is opposed to the Kasturirangan Committee report on the Western Ghats.
What is the issue?
- The Kasturirangan committee report proposes 37 per cent of the total area of Western Ghats, which is roughly 60,000 square kilometers, to be declared as eco-sensitive area (ESA).
- Declaring this would adversely affect the livelihood of people in the region, asserted the Karnataka CM.
Kasturirangan Committee Report
- The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), also known as the Gadgil Commission after its chairman Madhav Gadgil, was an environmental research commission.
- It was appointed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests of India. The commission submitted the report in 2011.
- The WGEEP was succeeded by an eminent scientist K. Kasturirangan.
(1) Declaration of Eco-Sensitive Area (ESA)
- The committee report proposes 37 per cent of the total area of Western Ghats, which is roughly 60,000 square km, to be declared as eco-sensitive area (ESA).
- Out of this, 20,668 sq km of the area falls in Karnataka (46.50%) covering 1,576 villages.
(2) Ban on various activities
- The report recommended a blanket ban on mining, quarrying, setting up of red category industries and thermal power projects.
- It also stated that the impact of infrastructural projects on the forest and wildlife should be studied before permission is given for these activities.
(3) Urging of UNESCO World Heritage tag
- It has sought for UNESCO Heritage tag as an opportunity to build global and domestic recognition of the enormous natural wealth that exists in the Western Ghats.
- The 39 sites are located across the Western Ghats and distributed across the states (Kerala 19), Karnataka (10), Tamil Nadu (6) and Maharashtra (4).
Reasons behind rejection by Karnataka
- Hitherto conservation measures: Karnataka has the distinction of being one of the states with extensive forest cover and the government has taken care to protect the biodiversity of Western Ghats.
- Curb over development activities: The state believes that implementation of the report will halt the developmental activities in the region.
- Issues over satellite observations: The Kasturirangan report has been prepared based on the satellite images, but the ground reality is different.
- Adaptation by People: People of the region have adopted agriculture and horticultural activities in an eco-friendly manner.
Significance of the recommendations
- There have been massive encroachments across the state forest areas and these have been done at the behest of political leaders.
- We are in the throes of extreme climate events, which are impacting nature and people.
- Hence it is prudent to conserve the fragile ecosystems as it costs less compared to the situation prone to calamities (with changes in the climate).